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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Iranians’

Iran: Can Rouhani Deliver?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

By Nir Boms and Shayan Arya

Last week, more than 250 Iranian steel workers gathered in front of the Supreme Leader’s residence in protest against unjustified layoffs and unpaid salaries. They were not the only ones. Reports from the past week revealed a dozen other such protests and strikes that range from a tire company, cable workers, the cinema association and even employees of Iran’s Ministry of Youth Affairs.

Protests and demonstrations are not that common in Iran; their last wave was met with harsh repression and violence. Now they have spread again and become more brazen. Signs again read “Down with the dictator,” while police used tear gas in an attempt to scare protesters away.

A combination of international sanctions and domestic mismanagement has resulted in rapidly rising unemployment and restive unemployed youth. The worsening economic conditions were also a key driver for the vote for change which took place in Tehran during the last Presidential election. But change is still a long way off.

Rouhani’s victory by such a wide margin was not just a testament to his politics, but seemingly a total rejection of the more conservative candidates more closely aligned with the widely despised supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rouhani’s campaign symbol was a giant golden key, which he waved at rallies to symbolize his ability to open locked doors. To an Iranian electorate all too familiar with locked doors in every aspect of their lives — both domestic and international — even the remote possibility of things getting better was irresistible. But now that Rouhani has been elected, he may find it difficult to deliver on his promise.

Rouhani, to be sure, will face a mountain of problems, even compared to those of his predecessors. Iran’s international isolation has never been so severe. There is virtually no segment of Iran’s economy, or for that matter of Iranian society, that has been immune to the ill effects of the economic sanctions. In less than a year, Iran’s currency has lost two-thirds of its value against the dollar; and even by the most optimistic estimates, inflation is above 30%, with unemployment reaching similar proportions among urban youth.

Iran’s economy is under attack from two major fronts: international sanctions and domestic mismanagement inherent in the Islamic system.

Sanctions are not a new phenomenon there. Previous sanctions were imposed in response to the Islamic regime’s international support for terrorism and Iran’s dismal human rights record. But the more stringent sanctions now afflicting Iran were levied in response to the country’s nuclear program — and these are the crippling sanctions Rouhani needs to undo. To accomplish such a change, a change of policy is required. In addition to the nuclear issue, any negotiations for lifting sanctions obviously need to include Iran’s abandoning support for Hezbollah, its involvement in Syria, its continued support of other terrorist groups, as well as the Assad regime that continues to slaughter its people.

Rouhani’s first challenge is that he does not hold the keys to most of these issues. Iran’s policies on the nuclear issue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international terrorism and supporting the Assad regime are the sole purview of Iran’s supreme leader. No president has ever been able to enter these domains in any meaningful way, let alone alter them substantially; these issues have, in fact, always been sources of tension and discreet friction between presidents and the supreme leader.

Another challenge lies in the United States Congress. As many of the sanctions against Iran have been embedded in laws, it would take a Herculean effort on the part of President Obama to convince the legislative branch to change them. Even if the president were to decide to “trust” Rohani, he would still need to convince Congress. Given the political atmosphere in Washington, it is unlikely the president would even consider risking his remaining political capital on lifting sanctions without being able to demonstrate substantial progress in changing Iran’s course.

A third challenge lies on the domestic front. Here Rouhani must face an endemic system of corruption, in addition to gangs of Revolutionary Guards [IRGC], who have extended their control over almost every aspect of Iran’s economy, government, military and security apparatus. To change that, Rouhani would have to tackle the IRGC and their powerful ally, the Supreme Leader Khamenei, who sees them as his extended arm for controlling Iran and key to the Islamic regime’s survival.

Iranians Citizens Increasingly Support Peace with Israel

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Contrary to mainstream media reports, momentum for peaceful relations with the State of Israel is building among the Iranian people.

“I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mahyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved.  “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

Recently, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener, which was the first Iranian film to be filmed in Israel in decades. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

By defying the BDS Movement and pro-regime forces inside the Islamic Republic, who forced the Iranian Cinema Association to boycott Makhmalbaf’s films, the director risks a prison sentence if he returns to Iran.

Still, Makhmalbaf says he is  “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

Remarkably, more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of his decision to come to Israel.

Visit United with Israel.

Memo to Those Who Still Think Hezbollah Is a Distant Threat

Monday, June 17th, 2013
If there is one single factor that explains why we write this blog, it’s that having gone through the horror of our child being murdered (murdered, murdered, murdered, murdered… the word has never for a moment lost its power to stop us in our tracks), we feel the need to turn to others and say: This happens, and the people doing it want it to happen to many more people.
It’s hard to say we have a better understanding than others do of the process that turns individuals into jihadists and terrorists of other kinds. We probably don’t. Nor do we claim, even for a moment, to be smarter or better informed. We have simply learned to take these things seriously.
Others, we are reminded every time we look at news and analysis from all over the world and from our own country as well, don’t. At least, not seriously enough.
And we now have much less patience for the self-serving nonsense that is constantly served up by ill-informed and/or ideologically-driven reporters and their editors. You know, the utter rubbish about how we need to get down to “root causes“, to understand the “desperation” that brings people to do whatever the latest atrocity is, to apologize for the occupation or the prosperity of the alienation or whatever alleged trigger is top of their list of concerns and accusations.
This brings us to a startling article in Haaretz that went up in the last few hours: “Out of Iran, into Africa: Hezbollah’s scramble for Africa“, by Eli Karmon of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. The subtitle conveys what he wants us to know: “Across East and West Africa, Iranian and Lebanese nationals have been arrested in connection with Hezbollah-related terrorist activities. What is Hezbollah – and Iran – building in Africa, and why?
Because it can be hard to get people to read full-length articles, and especially about obscure dimensions of the incomprehensible Middle East and its never ending conflicts, here’s the key quote:

In the event of an acute diplomatic or military crisis in the Gulf arising from tensions relating to Iran’s nuclear efforts, Iran and Hezbollah, its proxy, could easily use the African continent for attacks against American and European targets there or as a platform for operations in Europe itself. At a time when the European Union appears so hesitant in designating Hezbollah, or even its “military branch”, as a terrorist organization, it is no wonder that countries such as India, Thailand, Bulgaria or Cyprus do not dare compel Iran, and Hezbollah, to pay the diplomatic and political price for their deadly activities. Europe is setting a poor example not only to its members but to the international community as a whole.

We have much more to say about Hezbollah, but not now. It’s enough if our readers will focus on the brief quote in the previous para. On the other hand, if Karmon’s analysis speaks to you, please read more about those murderous Islamists here.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/this-ongoing-war/memo-to-those-who-still-think-hezbollah-is-a-distant-threat/2013/06/17/

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